Saturday, April 4, 2009

New Ads!

Good Lord, there's a new big fat color ad on my front page. That's Google's new ad thingie, I guess. Not that Contrarienne will ever make any money, but every click counts. Eyeballs, doncha know.
UPDATE 4/6/09. Geez, they took it off awfully fast. Oh well.
UPDATE II: They're baa-aak!

Newspapers Today: Whazzup?

Sullivan found it, follow his link.

Bank Nationalization

Is not only the best course we're not taking, it's apparently mandated by law. If I didn't check in with Daily Kos on a regular basis, I would have missed this because I'm not home for Moyers on Fridays, and if I were I'd probably be watching Saturday Night Lights instead.
Tell me if you've seen this elsewhere. I don't think even Krugman has mentioned it, although he must certainly know.
...They're afraid that if they admit the truth, that many of the large banks are insolvent. They think Americans are a bunch of cowards, and that we'll run screaming to the exits. And we won't rely on deposit insurance. And, by the way, you can rely on deposit insurance. And it's foolishness. All right? Now, it may be worse than that. You can impute more cynical motives. But I think they are sincerely just panicked about, "We just can't let the big banks fail." That's wrong.
Well, of course there's a sticking point.
...The appropriate Federal banking agency shall, not later than 90 days after an insured depository institution becomes critically undercapitalized—
(i) appoint a receiver (or, with the concurrence of the Corporation, a conservator) for the institution; or
(ii) take such other action as the agency determines, with the concurrence of the Corporation, would better achieve the purpose of this section, after documenting why the action would better achieve that purpose.
UPDATE: Okay, it's very debatable, and debate goes on for more than 1,000 comments. Still, worth knowing there is a debate.

For Saturday, A Little Opera

Even with the Mac laptop's itty-bitty speakers, still...

Remember This Number

You know it's bad, I know it's bad, but just how bad is our defense budget? A whopping $513 billion a year, more than the combined defense budgets of the next highest 25 countries. We're everywhere, trying to do everything, mostly to "feed the beast" that is what the 'sphere usually refers to as the MIC, the military industrial complex. Apparently, Obama is serious about changing that.

Among the programs expected to be heavily cut is the Army's Future Combat Systems, a network of vehicles linked by high-tech communications that has been plagued by technical troubles and delays; with a price tag exceeding $150 billion, it is now one of the most costly military efforts.
Gates also is considering cutting a new $20 billion communications satellite program and reducing the number of aircraft carriers from 11 to 10, and he plans to eliminate elements of the decades-old missile defense effort that are over budget or considered ineffective, according to industry and administration sources.
Several experts said the Pentagon budget plan last year was an effort to force the hand of a new administration and stands as a textbook example of military service pressures that have driven the growth in recent years of the defense budget, which has more than doubled since 2001. The 2009 total of $513 billion -- not including special Iraq and Afghanistan war costs -- exceeds the combined military budgets of the next 25 highest-spending nations.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Women Worth Noting

This news today gives me an excuse to call your attention to the contrarienne category that is the most fun, and probably worth a perusal if you haven't thought of going after it in the archives.

Republican senator has delayed President Barack Obama's nomination of Tammy Duckworth, an injured Iraq war helicopter pilot, to be an assistant secretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

UPDATE: I didn't know until I tried that a search on the category doesn't get the full 73 entries. If you ever need to search the archives, they're at the bottom of the front page.

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee didn't vote on the nomination Thursday because North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr asked that the panel hold off. Burr, the top Republican on the committee, wants Duckworth and the White House to answer some of his questions. Burr's spokesman, David Ward, would not say on Friday what the questions concerned.
"He's doing his due diligence ... to ensure that veterans have the best representation possible," Ward said.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The committee chairman, Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, called it a "disappointing setback."
"Tammy Duckworth is a talented and qualified nominee who has already given so much for her country and the veterans she serves," Akaka said in a statement.
Duckworth, a major in the Illinois National Guard, lost both her legs and partial use of one arm in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in 2004. She ran for Congress in 2006, but lost. She's currently the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.

Not News O' Teh Day

Poll: Bush And Cheney Still Unpopular 

A new Gallup poll tests how former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney have fared in public opinion since they left office. The answer: Badly.

Bush's favorable rating is only 35%, with 63% unfavorable. Cheney is at 30% favorable to 62% unfavorable.
Bush's popularity had been inching up a bit over the course of the 2008 campaign and as he was on the way out -- up to a high of 40% favorable and 59% unfavorable in early January -- but his numbers now are back near the all-time low of 32% favorable and 66% unfavorable from April 2008.


Quote O' Teh Day

"My administration," the president added, "is the only thing between you and the pitchforks."
From Politico's account of the closed-door meeting between Obama and the bank execs last week.

OT but what the hell. Instead of Chicago style politics, maybe it's Balmer style.
I took the Facebook test for which The Wire character I would be, and I am disappointed to learn I am Lester Freamon.
I wanted to be Omar (Obama's favorite) "I Am The American Dream" Little  or Snoop.

Michelle Obama Narrowly Escapes Poison

Cuz that's why you don't touch The Queen.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
The Poisonous Queen

Daily Show Full EpisodesEconomic CrisisPolitical Humor

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Stories For Children, By Children

Denial Ain't Just a River Dept.
I like my stories as complex and mundane as life, thank you. And true. I like them true.
But I was in the news business in the U.S. for far too long to believe that that's what we usually get. Which is one reason I love the internet and credible people to find me nuggets like this:
One thing nobody reflected on much back in 2003, when neo-cons were arguing that we built a democracy in postwar Germany so why not Iraq: as Tony Judt writes in Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945, the postwar settlement in Europe involved vast amounts of ethnic cleansing, which left the states the US (and USSR) proposed to rebuild neatly settled on linguistic and ethnic lines. Czechoslovakia and Poland expelled millions of Germans. Yugoslavia expelled Italians. Hungary expelled Rumanians and vice versa. And of course the Jews were dead, and those that weren’t soon left for Palestine. The map of Central and Eastern Europe was sorted of most of its troublesome Austro-Hungarian complexity. And as it turns out it’s much easier to build a nation when its population doesn’t have murderous long-running internal religious and ethnic differences.

They didn't tell you that in your high school history class, did they? That is, if you ever made it all the way to WWII. (I argue we should teach history backwards, starting with Iraq and ending with the Pilgrims, but that's for another day.)

Criminal Fraud Dept.: AIG/Bush Admin.

I've seen headlines about this for a couple weeks, but just couln't bring myself to immerse myself in the details of it all.
Today, Josh Marshall at TPM links to a succinct article and uses the following very useful quote:
The key point is that neither the public, the Fed nor the Treasury seem to understand is that the CDS contracts written by AIG with these various non-insurers around the world were shams - with no correlation between "fees" paid and the risk assumed. These were not valid contracts as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, Treasury Secretary Geithner and Economic policy guru Larry Summers claim, but rather acts of criminal fraud meant to manipulate the capital positions and earnings of financial companies around the world.
Indeed, our sources as well as press reports suggest that the CDS contracts written by AIG may have included side letters, often in the form of emails rather than formal letters, that essentially violated the ISDA agreements and show that the true, economic reality of these contracts was fraud plain and simple. Unfortunately, by not moving to seize AIG immediately last year when the scandal broke, the Fed and Treasury may have given the AIG managers time to destroy much of the evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
Another money quote:
“In the regulatory world, a ’side letter’ is perhaps the most insidious and destructive weapon in the white-collar criminal’s arsenal. With the flick of a pen, underhanded executives can cook the books in enormous amounts and render a regulator helpless.”

G-20 Barbie

Tina Brown (of Daily Beast) knows what we crones contrariennes want — a little glam, a little gossip — even if Krugman thinks this sort of thing is evidence of our doom.
I personally was interested to learn a little bit more about the women, but most interested to see that multi-billionaire, fascist pig Berlisconi seems to have had a "little work" done. Mmm, Marcello! And so tan!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lucy In The Sky With Microdiamonds

Yep, yep, it was the microdiamonds that did it, mate. Wiped out all the big mammals in North America in the geological equivalent of a microsecond.
Actually, it wasn't the diamonds, according to this theory, that caused the disaster. But they are evidence of the massive assault from space of mini-comets, and they're embedded in the arctic ice of 12,900 years ago. For some reason, the people who roamed the North American continent at the time, the Clovis, previously believed to have been such diabolically good hunters (spears and spit, mostly) that they could wipe out whole populations of benignly stupid animals such as wolly mammoths and saber tooted cats, seem to have died out or wandered away at the same time, probably looking for food.
Oh, anyway, I haven't been so excited by a Nova show since the series on string theory a few years back.

replica of a woolly mammoth
Nova investigates a provocative new theory that suggests the extinction of more than 34 types of large prehistoric mega-creatures, such as the saber-toothed cat and woolly mammoth, was caused not by climate change or the arrival of the first human hunters, but by the massive breakup of a comet over the Great Lakes region at the end of the last Ice Age, some 12,900 years ago.
As if that weren't enough, Frontline followed with a surprisingly good take on health care reform, with most of the insurance industry saying, sure, we'll insure everybody as long as you make it a mandate.
That was Hillary's proposal. Barack wasn't going that far. Can he pull it off? News at 11.
This is not the reason I have a TV, but it's the reason I'm glad I have a TV. Beats the 12" monitor on my kitchen counter.
But yeah, you can see them online. PBS is nothing if not cutting edge.

Headlines Dept.

Are you sure this isn't April Fools Day?
Newt Gingrich Converts to Catholicism
DNA Evidence Exonerates Black Man Convicted of Bear Attack

Oh, wait.


Perhaps the best use of viral vidoe evah.
Sullivan calls these mental health breaks.

Healine O Teh Day

Americans Oppose Non-Existent Threat of Replacing the Dollar

Note to American media: Ignore Anything Rasmussen does, ever

Now remember that even if a new global money were adopted in some form, the dollar would not actually be replaced as the currency of the United States in domestic use. But what if that misperception were to linger in the public's mind, and efforts failed to convince people otherwise? Would Bachmann and others have real political capital?
"If the idea got around that this meant replacing the currency in your wallet," Rasmussen told me, "then absolutely there would be support building for protecting the dollar."

Best comment from notKeith:
Please replace my dollars with toxic derivative credit default swaps.
Oh wait, you already did that.
Never mind.

Today's News

Well, KING-TV told me the couple whose designer dog Payton, a pooscnau (poozer?), got it back thanks to the publicity.
I needed to know that.
In the meantime, in other news, TPM is loaded up with so much good stuff this morning that I feel overwhelmed:
List of Climate Change Naysayers (I'm looking at you, George Wiii—ll)
Jindal is not sorry he mocked volcano watch funds, despite Redoubt eruption
Bailouts now nearly match national GDP (12 t, yes, t)
My favorite"
Pentagon Arms Programs "Staggeringly" Over Budget
More here.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Blood, Violence And, Sometimes, Sex

I didn't think I had the stomach for Silence of the Lambs, but it turned out I loved it.
So along came Pulp Fiction, which kept me laughing throughout the whole car cleanup thing.
Then Fargo, of course. William H. Macy. Where's he been, anyway?
In that spirit: Movie of the week, In Bruges.
Last week's, Eastern Promises.
Consider the context.

If You Care About Journalism

Huffpo is going there, so they say.

NEW YORK — The Huffington Post said Sunday that it will bankroll a group of investigative journalists, directing them at first to look at stories about the nation's economy.

The popular Web site is collaborating with The Atlantic Philanthropies and other donors to launch the Huffington Post Investigative Fund with an initial budget of $1.75 million. That should be enough for 10 staff journalists who will primarily coordinate stories with freelancers, said Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post.

Of course, that still doesn't get your city council watched.

Thought For The Day

Science and Religion Dept.
It was one thing to discover new continents or new constellations, and quite another to discover, as Antonie van Leeuwenhoek—the Dutch inventor of the microscope—did with some horror, that whole kingdoms of "animalcules" were carrying on their lives within his own mouth.
A review of an exhibition of the work of Maria Sibylla Merian, another remarkable woman I never heard of until this day.

Correction: Women and Art Dept.
The idea of "minor arts" reflects the continuing commanding influence (thanks in great measure to Bernard Berenson) of the sixteenth-century artist and writer Giorgio Vasari, whose endlessly entertaining Lives of the Artists (with editions in 1550 and 1568) enshrined history painting as the pinnacle of the visual arts and Michelangelo as their undisputed master. In such company, Maria Sibylla Merian's renderings of plants and animals, with their crystalline accuracy, consigned her for a long time to the realm of scientific illustration rather than art.
Correction II: Women and Gardening Dept.
A quibble here: Since when is the path of life "imperfection" and the absence of decay perfection. Since forever, I suppose. Note to self: become Buddist.
Rather than showing animal and vegetable at some celestially perfect moment, she combines the different stages of growth and decay, collapsing an expanse of time into a single image. Her flowers will appear on the same branch as buds, as new blossoms, full-blown, withered, gone to fruit. Leaves sprout, flourish, go brown, die, and drop, many of them half-eaten by caterpillars. The insects, too, are shown as they pass through every stage of their strange cyclical lives. Like Caravaggio before her, she registers the passage of time by documenting several of its phases, calling attention to the immanent imperfection of it all.